Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Camp Season

Summer time means it's time for summer camps. This coming weekend kicks off the summer camping season with Hopedale Baptist's children's camp.

Surprisingly, I actually look forward the weekend camp. Over the years, I have been to a number of children's camps and always maintain that nobody does kids' camp better than Hopedale. It is a perfect blend of activity, Bible study and worship. We pack a week's worth of camp into a long weekend, have plenty of parent and non-parent volunteers for cabins, activities, cooking and whatever is needed.

There is a lot of planning and pre-camp work that goes into making the weekend a great one. We have held camp at a variety of places but are going back to one of my favorites this year--Baptist Hill Assembly in Mt. Vernon MO.

There isn't anything fancy about Baptist Hill. It has a good facility for worship, decent cabins, a nice pool and water slide and lots of open space! It suits us quite nicely. Best of all, it has an great staff!

After our weekend camp is over, I'll be back at Baptist Hill for the first day of the Tri-county  Association children's camp. Even though I don't have any other camps scheduled for the summer, I'll probably be going to one or two more before the season is over.

As retirement looms in the near future, perhaps camps will be a bigger part of my future summers. We shall see.

John <><

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Finishing Year One of the New John

It's almost been a year!
I was June 1, 2013 that I weighed in at 258 pounds and decided that it was time for a serious lifestyle change. I will admit, originally it was just about weight loss. Chris was already losing weight by simply cutting out breads and pastas. I was already a self-proclaimed expert on weight loss. Over the years, I had lost (and regained) well over a hundred pounds (probably a few hundred pounds). What began as an effort to lose weight has changed into trying to find a sustainable, healthier way to live.

The past year has been quite a study in foods, drinks, meds, activities (including sleep) and how they affect my metabolism, energy levels and weight loss. Although I haven't put anything on the permanently banned for life list, I am careful about what I eat. I still occasionally eat pizza, ice cream, burgers, brats and hot dogs. I am pretty aware of everything I ingest and how it will impact my immediate state as well as my overall health. Knowing is half the battle.

I lost about 35 pounds through the middle of October and then regained some during the holidays (don't we all?!). I started 2014 at 229 before getting back on track.

Today, I have changed my everyday eating habits and believe that I have a sustainable diet that includes mostly fruits and vegetables, a limited amount of red meats and healthy amounts of good fats. I limit my grain based carbohydrates and eat very few processed foods. I'm getting a little more exercise than most people, but nothing too extreme. I'm also getting more sleep than I used to get.

I'll be at Kids' Camp on June 1 this year and won't get to make my one year weight-in. I guess I'll have an extra day.

As of today, I'm at 202.8. This is my second non-consecutive day below 203 or at minus 55 pounds. It's no longer about weight loss. I expect that I'll continue to lose a little bit until my eating and exercise find me at the weight that my intake and output reach a balance. I'm guessing it will be around 195 or so.

This past week I had two different people ask me if I was okay and if I was losing weight on purpose!
The answer is, "I am well. I am very well!"

John <><

Monday, May 26, 2014

Getting Back on Track

After a couple of weeks of travel and a couple of weekends of caloric splurging, it is time to get back to what has become my new lifestyle of eating healthy foods and getting a little bit of exercise.

This mornings's breakfast smoothie: 1/2c raw oats, 1/2c skim milk, 1scoop vanilla protein powder, 1 apple, cinnamon, 1c raw spinach, ice. 438 calories, 40g protein.

I'm letting that settle while I sip on a cup of coffee and plan to hit the pavement for a brief morning run/walk. Although I have no plans to participate in an upcoming 5K run, I think that I'm going to train as if I was going to. I really don't have a running partner and don't care, even though most experts will tell you that it helps to have one. I don't feel like competing with others and don't think that I need the "goal" to be motivated to train. Some time back, I used Run Keeper's couch to 5k workout when I was working on getting back to running. That didn't last too long as beginning the running process brought forth some other issues. 

Today, I'm thinking that time (it's always about time) and temps will have the biggest impact on keeping faithful to a running program. Hopefully, I can self motivate to get out in the morning on most days. I'd hate to be the cause of somebody's increased stress levels due to finding an out of shape old guy passed out on the roadside on some hot, sunny afternoon.

No holiday BBQ for me this afternoon. Duty calls. It's probably for the best. It's hard to keep a meatless Monday at a BBQ.

Honor those that sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

John <><

Saturday, May 24, 2014

It's Summer...not really!

But it is the unofficial kick off to summer--Memorial Day weekend!

I know that I should be posting more regularly (and will try to do that throughout the coming months), but there is just too much to do today. Most of this weekend will consist of getting ready for Hopedale Baptist's Children's Camp. I am truly honored that they continue to ask me to be a part of this great annual event and realize that the day will come when they recognize that there may be somebody else that is best for sharing the message of God with our kids and their friends. Until that day, I'll be pleased and honored to serve as best as I can.

As you enjoy your holiday weekend (US readers), take time to remember the sacrifices that were made to secure our freedoms.

Time to get back to work on the camp stuff.

John <><

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back in Missouri

We are on the road and heading home. I am ready for the comfort of my own bed and the room that our humble dwelling affords us. We've been two nights in a hotel in St Augustine FL, two nights in a St Louis hotel and seven nights in a nice suite at the Bavaro Princess in the Dominican Republic.

It's been nice, but I'm ready for home.

I'll need to get some laundry going so that I have something to wear to work this week and get back to regular eating and exercise. Tomorrow morning's weigh-in could be interesting. In any case, I still have almost two weeks to the end of the month and the completion of my one year of more healthy living.

I think I'm ready to up the intensity of my workouts--a little more fat burning on some days and a little more strength building on others. I'll probably do that the way I've done most things this year--slowly, maybe just one or two days a week to start and then build through year two.

Back to real life.
At least it's a good life.

John <><

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Last Full Day in Punta Cana

It's mid-afternoon and Chris has just returned from her spa appointment. Our vacation time is coming to an end. Tomorrow will be packing, breakfast and a trip to the airport. I might try to sneak in an early morning run since the day will include a four hour flight followed by a four hour drive.

I feel that we are incredibly blessed to be able to take vacations like this and really do hope to be able to do this with our kids. We have seen several small family groups on our trips and it looks like fun. We have always hesitated at the idea of vacationing with friends because we are pretty laid back and make plans as we go. We enjoy our time together and have no problem spending the entire day lounging on the beach or by the pool. We might take an afternoon nap in the coolness of our roon and we pretty much decided on what to eat when it's time to eat.

Our kids know us and would be free to hang out with us or do their own thing. I wouldn't want to monopolize their time just as I wouldn't want somebody to monopolize ours. Maybe it would work; maybe it wouldn't. But I would like to give it a try sometime.

The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country and the Bavaro Princess is one of the most beautiful resorts we've ever visited. There are things that I've really liked about this trip and several things that I've been a little bit disappointed with, but they are trivial in the grand scheme of life. It's hard to complain about service from someone making $12/ten hour day while I'm sitting in the shade and they're working in the heat and humidity of the tropics.

As an added bonus, it's been a good week to be away from the Ozarks. Frost warnings! You've got to be kidding me! Hoping that next week will be back to normal mid-May temps.

Tomorrow's post will be from the good ol' US of A!

John <><

Friday, May 16, 2014

More from the Dominican Republic

Yesterday was a very full day. We left the hotel just before 9am for a day trip to the mountains.

We visited a public elementary school in a small countryside village and learned a lot about the Dominican Republic. Our guide was very knowledgeable and very proud of his small country.

He said that about 11% of the population is considered very rich with incomes of over 70,000 US dollars per year. About 60% are considered middle-class with incomes of $20-70,000/year. The poor, $12-20,000/year are about 10% and the very poor make up the rest and average around $3,000/yr.

But, he was quick to point out, most of them are very happy. They don't miss the everyday conveniences we have because they have never known them. They lead simple, natural, clean lives and have an average life expectancy of 85 years.

We past by a small roadside shack that was the local butcher shop. They had pork yesterday. You knew that because of the freshly killed pig head hanging from the pole. Today, it would've been something else.

We learned about cacao, coffee, coconuts, cigars and cane (sugar cane). We had a traditional (or typical) Dominican lunch of red beans, rice and chicken. Our guide said they pretty much eat that EVERY DAY. He said that sometimes his mom would tell them they were having something new--chicken, rice and beans!

We ended our day trip with an hour of play at the beach in Macau and were back at the hotel around 5:30pm.

It was a very good day.

I'll post some pics when we get home or you see some now on Facebook or Twitter.  I'm at or @magicianary on Twitter.

Today was very relaxing. I was up early enough to see the sunrise and managed a short run/walk before coffee, oatmeal and yogurt. I had short swim in the ocean and waited for Chris to join me for my real breakfast--a small omelet (2 eggs, cheese, jalapenos, onions, tomatoes) and more Dominican coffee.

Other than that, we've just been taking it easy on the beach or in the waves of the ocean or in the hotel pool. We did manage a nice walk of a couple of miles.

It's hard to believe that tomorrow will be our last full day here. It's been a great break, but real life awaits. I think I'll have a new appreciation of the simple things.

Waiters here make about $12/day plus tips (when they get them) for a 10+ hr day. Teachers make around $28/day and must now teach in Spanish and English. Many of them aren't bilingual to begin with and when they learn to speak English well enough, they leave for jobs in tourism where they can make more money.

We take the simplest things for granted--like drinking water from the tap and flushing toilet paper.

John <><

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Cigar Heaven

Yes, I enjoy a good cigar!

For the most part, I have determined that Dominican cigars are my favorite. I have had Honduran, Nicaraguan, Mexican, Jamaican and Cuban cigars. I have even had Filipino cigars. As you can imagine, spending a week in the Dominican Republic is a special trip for a cigar smoker.

I was a little disappointed to discover that premium rated Dominican cigars are not a lot less expensive--a little less, but not what I was expecting.

Yesterday, I picked up a few premiums (7) and managed to spend what I normally spend for cigars in about four months. The guys did throw in a couple of freshly rolled cigarillos that were very good, but still an expensive day.

Then today...
I scored a box of ten Dominican Cohibas at a very good price--a much better deal than I made in Mexico last year.
I little bit later I found myself sitting in a small cigar store where two men roll about 100-150 cigars per day. I was smoking one as the salesman told me about the shop and their tobaccos. I handled the leaves, talked cigars and enjoyed the smoke.

I knew the pitch was coming. How much was this "free" cigar going to end up costing me?

I would have loved to buy a bundle of 50 at his special bundle price! The bundle would be less since it would be wrapped, not boxed. The boxes of 25 come in a nice cedar box (which I don't really need) so the price per cigar is a little more. I ended up with the box of 25 for the same price per cigar as the bundle of 50 and am really grateful for a wife that allows me my indulgence.

Having blown what I normally spend in 6 months in just a couple of days will mean treasuring each one of these babies. These won't be the ones I burn through on a two or three mile walk. These will be for relaxing and enjoying.

I'm a happy boy tonight.
Another good day to be John Hill.

John <><

Monday, May 12, 2014

Punta Cana

We have completed our first full day in Punta Cana DR. It was a beautiful day!

We slept in, enjoyed breakfast and spent the rest of the morning relaxing by the pool. After lunch and a brief return to our suite, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach.

I spent some time in the ocean and we walked a couple of miles, enjoying the sun, the scenery and each other's company. We had an early dinner (6:30ish) at a seafood restaurant. It was very good and very relaxing. No hurries, no worries. We were there for an hour and a half or so.

The resort is really spread out so there is a lot of walking. There are trams that run until midnight, but we've been getting our exercise. No hotel building can be taller than the tallest palm tree so our resort is a large collection of two story buildings that consist of four suites each.

And the beaches are beautiful!
(If you say that like my mom, it sounds like "the bitches are beautiful!")

I'll write more about the resort and our trip when I have a keyboard and don't have to try using links from my cell phone on limited hotel wifi that is only available in the lobby!

I hope you have a great Tuesday.  We're going to try a little shopping in the morning, have a beach cookout to attend for lunch and will have to recover by lounging on the beach for the rest of the day!

Sounds like another good-day-to-be-JohnHill kind of day!

John <><

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Vacation Day!

Although I've been off work since Tuesday evening, this is really my first day of vacation! Up until now, the time has been enjoyable but rather hectic.

Today will be relaxing.

I'm currently sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane heading for the Caribbean! In a few hours I'll be sitting on a sunny beach and enjoying a nice Dominican cigar. (I'm hoping to enjoy a few freshly rolled Dominican cigars this week!)

We've never traveled to the Dominican Republic. We generally vacation along the beaches of Mexico. Even our one cruise experience was to Mexican ports.

My vacation plans include lots of relaxing!

I'll be sure to get plenty of exercise and plan on eating good, healthy food--but mostly I'll be relaxing.

Enjoy your week.
I'll keep you updated from the beach...

John <><

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Graduation Day

We are the road to Columbia MO this morning for my baby's graduation. Our little girl is a young woman with a BA in English.

We are so proud of her!

She, along with thousands of others, will enter into a dismal job market. Forecasters say that this year's graduates face under-employment and employment outside of their fields more than recent classes.

I have faith in them...or at least in her!

Go get 'em, baby!

John <><

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Day in Florida

Day 2 of our spring adventure has taught us that we need to come back to Florida when we have more time to enjoy it.

I think we would really like the St. Augustine area. Although we didn't do more than drive through the city today, I think we've decided to come back sometime.

This isn't really a tourist kind of trip. The wedding and family time are the main priorities. We had some good visits today and will see more family tomorrow.

The weather has been beautiful! Perhaps this is the time of year to come as tourists.I hope that tomorrow will also be a grand day!

Since the overall diet was pretty much shot for the day, I indulged in a Magnum double caramel ice cream bar. It was delicious!  But I can feel it working its evil on me already with the little headthrob from too much sugar.

Not to worry. Back on track in a couple of days.

It's wedding day!

John <><

John's Spring Adventure

It's day 2 of our spring journey. Yesterday was a travel day--a few hours in a car followed by airports, layovers, car rental and a little more car travel before checking into our hotel at around 1 am.

So we slept in this morning and are getting ready to start this day. We'll meet up with some family and hope to see a few sites. The focus of this part of our journey is the wedding of my nephew and his bride. Jason is the oldest of my nieces and nephews and we are looking forward to adding Jessica to the growing number of the Hill family clan.

Looks like a beautiful day in Florida today!
Be well!

John <><

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Breaking the silence...for a day

Yeah, it has been a few weeks since posting here at Out of My Hat.

I am not ready to drop out of the blogosphere just yet, but I have definitely found other things to occupy my time. I haven't even been keeping up with reading the blogs that I have normally kept up with.

I have been keeping up with the exercise and healthy eating. Documenting meals and keeping track of calories has helped to keep the weight coming off. I have decided that I'm going to be less diligent about the documenting and counting calories while on vacation. I know that the first few days will be difficult to get in a little exercise, but will try for a little something each day.

I'm counting on good habits formed over the past months to keep me on track. I don't plan on over-indulging in anything and I do plan to eat healthy foods. I even expect that I may put on a couple of pounds in the coming week--no big deal. I should still come in at minus more than 50 pounds for the year ending May 31.

This weekend we will celebrate my daughter's graduation from Columbia College. We are very proud of her and wish her the best in tackling life as a new college graduate. She recently took the FAA's AT-SAT and is waiting to hear if she will get a date to attend the FAA Air Traffic Academy in Oklahoma City. I would be very happy to see her begin a career in ATC as I am ending my own. Hannah was only weeks old when I attended the Academy.

Good luck, baby!

Perhaps there will be a few pictorial posts in the coming days or a few quick lines during my time off of work...perhaps not.

Be well.

John <><